Inteview with Jason Chu, Chief Operating Officer - International, DigiPen Institute of Technology

By AMRITA VALECHA | 13 November, 2009 - 14:11

What have been the latest developments at DigiPen?
We have recently started a collaborative effort with Ubisoft Singapore and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA) that provides future game developers with an opportunity to obtain specialized education taught by DigiPen at its Singapore campus. With tuition fees subsidized by the WDA under the Skills Programme for Upgrading and Resilience (SPUR*), qualified students are taught by DigiPen Singapore in three full-time Professional Conversion Programs (PCPs) in Game Programming, Game Art (environment modeling or character animation), or Game Design, with Ubisoft Singapore joining DigiPen in guiding the students in the game production process.

By blending the industry experience from Ubisoft with the established academic excellence of DigiPen, this Campus training program aims to provide students with the necessary knowledge and industry production experience that they need to join the competitive video game industry.

Could you tell us about your affiliations with any studio?
At our Redmond campus, employers return every year to meet our graduating students at our annual Career Day, where they can view graduate portfolios, play student-made games, conduct onsite interview and liaise with our career support staff. Some of the companies that our graduates have worked for are: Bungie,, Valve, Nintendo, Microsoft, Zipper Interactive, Snowblind Studios, EA, Gas-Powered Games, Dreamworks, Sony, LucasArts, Rhythem & Hues, etc.

At the Singapore campus, we have also been working closely with the other major industry leaders and we look forward to being able to help our students obtain internships and employment opportunities. Some freshman students have obtained internship opportunities with the Institute for Infocomm Research (I2R), a member of the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*Star) family, and Ubisoft Singapore during the summer break in 2009.

What were the reasons for DigiPen to choose Singapore as its first international campus?
There are many reasons to choose Singapore. English is used throughout Singapore and this allows us to integrate into the environment very easily. The educational materials are directly usable without the need to translate into a different language.

The Singapore government is supporting the growth of the game and interactive digital media industries with a very well designed plan. This is apparent in seeing the work done by the Economic Development Board, the Media Development Authority, the Infocomm Development Authority, and the Workforce Development Agency, as well as the cooperation of the other government agencies. There is a common agreement that the game and creative industries will become an even more significant contributor to the economy of Singapore in the next 5 to 10 years. The industry is gaining momentum by having a good number of big industry players setting up a home in Singapore (i.e. Lucasfilm, EA, Ubisoft and a number of other companies). This translates to job opportunities for our future graduates. The strong educational system in Singapore will produce an excellent pool of candidates for DigiPen.

What is the Training Philosophy of DigiPen?
DigiPen's comprehensive and rigorous curriculum goes far beyond just teaching students how to use art production software or specific programming languages. Through internships, team-based projects, and a highly academic curriculum, a DigiPen student directly experiences what it takes to become a successful and valuable member of the interactive media community.

Could you tell us about the different courses you offer?
Undergraduate programs:

1. Bachelor of Science in Real-Time Interactive Simulation
This computer science degree combines coursework in computer science, mathematics, and physics with team-based projects to provide students with the theoretical foundation and practical skills required to successfully pursue careers in highly specialized fields, such as computer/video games and real-time simulations, as well as in traditional computer science.

2. Bachelor of Science in Game Design
Game design is a cross-disciplinary field of study encapsulating the artistic and scientific processes involved in conceiving, scripting, and implementing interactive computer/video games. This degree combines coursework in computer science, mathematics, physics, game design theory, arts, humanities, and social sciences with team-based projects to provide students with the academics, technical foundation, and practical skills required to design, script and program games.

3. Bachelor of Arts in Game Design
While the B. Sc. in Game Design concentrates on the scientific processes involved in designing games, this B. A. degree focuses on the artistic aspects of Game Design. This degree combines coursework in game design theory, arts, humanities, and social sciences with team-based projects to provide students with the academic, technical, and creative foundation, and practical skills required to design, script, and create art content for games.

4. Bachelor of Fine Arts in Production Animation
This degree combines a comprehensive and rigorous education in fine arts and animation with practical production experience. This provides students with the academic, technical, and creative foundation, and practical skills required to pursue a broad range of careers in games or animation productions.

Continuing Education programs:

1. WSQ Advanced Certificate in Games Development
Taught over six months, the objective of the program is to provide fundamental knowledge to those seeking a career in the game/software development industries.

2. DigiPen-Ubisoft Campus
In collaboration with Ubisoft Singapore, this is a ten-month "finishing year" program that aims to provide students with the necessary knowledge and industry production experience required to join the competitive video game industry. There are three tracks offered under the DigiPen-Ubisoft Campus:

(a) Professional Conversion Program for Game Programmers

(b) Professional Conversion Program for Game Artists

(i) Environmental Modeling
(ii) Character Modeling & Animation

(c) Professional Conversion Program for Game Designers

3. Modular courses

ProjectFUN Workshops

Designed specifically for students in upper primary schools, secondary schools and tertiary institutions, these two-week workshops are an excellent introduction to the digital interactive media fields. Academically, these workshops help students develop and enhance their problem-solving and analytical skills. Additionally, students discover the roles of mathematics, physics, art, and the importance of the integration of these academic topics in the field of game development and engineering.

Workshops offered:

- Game programming
- 3D animation production
- Game design

How many students are studying at DigiPen and how many have passed out till date?
Currently, we have 81 undergraduate students in their freshman and sophomore. It will be another two to three years before they graduate.

For the Continuing Education courses, there are currently 21 students undertaking the DigiPen-Ubisoft program and they will graduate in September 2010.

As for the ProjectFUN workshops, we had 100 students who completed the two-week workshops.

How is the complete admission procedure for the student like?
Before enrolling, applicants must have taken the Singapore-Cambridge GCE 'A' level exams or earned at least a polytechnic diploma, or a high school diploma, or recognized equivalency certificate. In addition to standard application elements such as an application form, transcripts, and a personal statement, there are additional requirements for specific programs such as an art portfolio, math requirements, game modification analysis, etc.

What is the fee structure and duration of the courses like?
The tuition fee for international students is approximately S$12,075 per semester (excluding 7% goods and services tax), which will work out to approximately S$96,600 for a four-year degree program. The duration of the degree programs is four years for a student without any exemptions.

What kind of international guests and industry professionals have been invited to DigiPen?
Consisting of representatives from industry leaders such as Microsoft, Nintendo, Ubisoft,
Valve, Gas Powered Games, and ArenaNet, DigiPen Program Advisory Committees
review DigiPen's curriculum annually for rigor and continued relevance to the industry.

Work done by three teams at Digipen on the Game Design Document, " The Rings of Romo Yana."

Student Name: Reko Pypponen.
Description: This environment on Jupiter's fiery moon, Iook is for a game design document, "The Rings of Romo Yana."

Students' Name: Sarah Quek, Sean Shia, Kelwin Kwan.
Description: This environment is for a game design document, "The Rings of Romo Yana." Team Mercury is depicting a level environment within the "Dawn Lotus," a satellite circling a newly-terraformed Mercury.

Student Name: Ignatius Tan.
Description: This Monkey Mech is for a game design document, "The Rings of Romo Yana." This is an uncolored character/prop for Man-U-Nam's Thousand Monkey Army.